"The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing —
to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from —
my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing,
all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back."

~C.S. Lewis


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The invisible princess

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place. 
~Author Unknown 

“You’re an incredibly intimidating person!”

I looked at him, dumbfounded. I’m intimidating? I walk out of the yellow-walled classroom with a friend—protesting that I try to be pleasant—and my friend bobs his head emphatically, insisting, oh yes, I am a terribly nice person. But incredibly intimidating.

And I heard it again from a professor walking out on the sidewalk in the April sun, and again from a former roommate when reminiscing about our first meeting: I have it under control. I get things done. I’m on top of everything. I’m intimidating.

What those people do not know is my inability to let myself even timidly approach anything close to weakness is itself one of my greatest weaknesses. The struggle for authenticity, transparency, and vulnerability fights bitterly against the deadly safe walls of a “perfect” exterior—and a false self. It is easier to be perfect than to be vulnerable, to give others the chance of hurting you, laughing at you. It is easier to be perfect than to let others down and cause them pain and risk them leaving you for your clumsy life.

Not allowing myself to be weak—to not be perfect—has affected me as a woman. I know I was not the only little girl to dream of being the great beauty rescued by the prince—I always secretly wanted to be dramatically kidnapped and  even more dramatically rescued (complete with epic battles and castles, swords, and dragons, preferably).

But as soon as I started dreaming up those adventures, I’d bite my lip and anxiously push back those stories, because, I knew, if I were silly enough or pathetic enough or dumb enough to get kidnapped and in trouble in the first place,  the prince would surely be annoyed he had to come rescue me—he’d think less of me—“Good grief,” he’d gripe, “that stupid girl got herself into one heck of a mess”—and I’d have only shame where I wanted love.

If only I’d been smarter, braver, or better, I could’ve earned the prince’s love, I could’ve avoided getting in trouble in the first place or at least could have gotten myself out of it on my own and proven my worth. Ultimately, I would be rescued only because I had failed.

You are not enough, the world tells me, If you show your weakness, others will leave you. This lie is not only for me—I have found through coffee shop conversations with friends that this fear grips the lives of many girls: the fear of becoming the invisible princess. We are afraid of being the girl, who, when she finally summons up the courage to show her weakness, finds herself abandoned by her prince and by others at the very moment she needed their strength. It is in that moment she learns she was just not quite worth fighting for.

So she determines to never be weak again—and it is then she learns what loneliness is.